WATCH: Are ISIS and Al Qaeda Returning to Afghanistan?
As the nation reflected recently on 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, as well as the one year anniversary of the botched withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, many have wondered whether the terrorist organizations ISIS and Al Qaeda have been able to reorganize and benefit from the new Taliban government.
According to a US intelligence assessment released in mid-August, Al Qaeda specifically “has not reconstituted its presence in Afghanistan,” but that is not to say that Al Qaeda is not being being aided by the new Taliban regime at all.
In a recent interview with The Political Insider contributor and former U.S. Air Force veteran Kat Anderson, a bronze star recipient who served several tours, including in Afghanistan, during her 20-year-career, the question was posed whether the various terrorist networks would begin to regroup and restructure with the Taliban in place.
Is the Threat Real?
Anderson argues that claims about a terrorist-free Afghanistan aren’t entirely accurate. Particularly when the second in command of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was recently killed in a drone strike while staying in the home of a member of the new Taliban government.
“This man was staying in downtown Kabul in a member of the new Taliban government’s, like, vacation home,” said Anderson. “He knew he was there.”
Anderson reiterated the concerns laid out in a statement given by Gen. McKenzie, who oversaw the military’s central command, to the Senate Armed Services Committee in September of last year. McKenzie believed that a “reconstituted Al Qaeda or ISIS with aspirations to attack the United States is a very real possibility.”
Despite this, the intelligence community still claims there isn’t significant proof enough to say that Al Qaeda specifically is a bigger threat to the United States and the region than they were a year ago. The assessment states the terrorist group “does not have a capability to launch attacks against the US or its interests abroad from Afghanistan.”
Anderson, however, believes that while immediate threats might not be arising from within Afghanistan now, that doesn’t mean moves aren’t being put in place for larger operations to be conducted eventually, with al-Zawahiri’s presence in the nation’s capital proof enough that the terrorist leader and his followers felt safe enough to come.
“You don’t have to be a foreign policy expert or a counter intelligence expert to know Al Qaeda is there again,” Anderson said.
Some US officials echo Anderson’s view, with some telling CNN that the report only shows where the terrorist groups are now, not where they could potentially be over time especially as the Taliban continues to build and operate a new government.
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